One of KKL-JNF's most important projects is supporting regional Research and Development (R&D) stations in agricultural regions throughout Israel. These stations aim to develop new crops and improve farming techniques for existing ones. This helps farmers in peripheral parts of the country compete successfully in the global produce market. These stations exploit the natural potential of peripheral regions: climate, soil, varieties of water sources and worker quality and employ field advisors and noted researchers who work in cooperation with national academic institutes.
A melon field in the Arava. Photo: KKL-JNF Photo Archive
The R&Ds take on special significance in the Arava, where most residents rely on farming to make a living. KKL-JNF and its Friends worldwide support applied research in the Arava's two R&D stations: the Central and Northern Arava R&D, which operates the Yair Experimental Station in Moshav Hatseva in the Central Arava Regional Council, and the Southern Arava R&D in Kibbutz Yotvata in the Eilot Regional Council.
The Yair Station, which was established in 1986 as part of the Negev-Arava R&D program, focuses on seven major topics: vegetables, ornamentals, plant-protection, orchards, organic agriculture, ornamental fishery, and produce quality in the harsh desert climate. Research at the station emphasizes developing new vegetable strains and healthy foods. JNF Canada, Australia and United States have partnered to establish new laboratories and research facilities for organic agriculture, as well as contributing new laboratory equipment for the Central & Northern Arava Research and Development Station at Hatseva that has significantly improved the facility.
The equipment has upgraded ongoing R&D activities to support and advance agriculture in the region, one of Israel's main farming areas. As part of its outlook on the development of modern agriculture as a basis for community development, the R&D is there to provide help for local farmers, applying its research in practical farming situations.
In recent years, alongside extensive research in agriculture, a strong scientific research division has developed, focusing the exploration of the desert's natural assets in the discovery of new drugs for curing human diseases.
Currently, and with the support of KKL-JNF, plans are underway for expanding the building that houses the R&D's laboratories.
The Southern Arava R&D Station operates in the most arid area in Israel, resulting from a combination of low rainfall and the constraint to use only brackish water from local bores for irrigation. The station focuses on developing suitable technology for sustainable farming in these unique conditions. Agriculture is a major element in the economy of the Eilot Regional Council with whom the station works: it comprises close to 40% of the regional economy. Close to 4500 acres (140,000 hectares), are farmed in the region. Research focuses primarily on topics related to date cultivation, the major crop, but also on vegetables, flowers, effective irrigation, use of agricultural waste and production of nutritional supplements from medicinal plants. Studies cover varied technological topics, mainly related to storage and packaging, and many concentrate on the use of brackish water for irrigation. Much of the research conducted at the station is directed at improving food security in other desert regions in the world.
Visit the Southern Arava R&D website (English language)